The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

ISBN: 0312863551
ISBN 13: 9780312863555
By: Robert A. Heinlein

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About this book

Robert A. Heinlein was the most influential science fiction writer of his era, an influence so large that, as Samuel R. Delany notes, "modern critics attempting to wrestle with that influence find themselves dealing with an object rather like the sky or an ocean." He won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, a record that still stands. "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" was the last of these Hugo-winning novels, and it is widely considered his finest work. It is a tale of revolution, of the rebellion of the former Lunar penal colony against the Lunar Authority that controls it from Earth. It is the tale of the disparate people--a computer technician, a vigorous young female agitator, and an elderly academic--who become the rebel movement's leaders. And it is the story of Mike, the supercomputer whose sentience is known only to this inner circle, and who for reasons of his own is committed to the revolution's ultimate success. "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is one of the high points of modern science fiction, a novel bursting with politics, humanity, passion, innovative technical speculation, and a firm belief in the pursuit of human freedom. "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is the winner of the 1967 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Reader's Thoughts

Mike (the Paladin)

I read this first when I was young...we're talking young-young here, and my memories of it were of a sort of space opera. I'd remembered it along with many of Heinlein's "teen" or youth books. When I mentioned this it was pointed out to me (rather forcefully by some) that my memories were...incomplete.Well, they were. While a young reader will see a "space rebellion" here the story itself is a well written tale of political science and human nature. Heinlein gives a very well done debate and/or picture of humans at their best and their worst.I also suspect that we see some of his own frustration with certain parts of society.The book is not only good and enthralling for itself but there are side issues that are just as interesting. For example the idea of future 21st century science and technology from the viewpoint of 1966 (phones still need cords for example but there is a self aware computer).While Mr. Heinlein and I would certainly not have agreed on all points I think we would have agreed on the most basic points of government and it's "uses". I think this book deserves my highest recommendation. And it is (as noted before me of course) a science fiction classic.

Brad

I’ve read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress twice in twenty years. Two decades between readings and it still holds up surprisingly well. Heinlein’s Lunar Revolution, his benevolent AI, Mycroft (aka Mike), and Professor de la Paz’s ideas for government were all exactly how I remembered them. Yet I found that my favourite part of the rereading experience was the tale it told about me. When I read this book the first time, I was an idealistic youth who believed that change was possible and worth fighting for, maybe even worth dying for. I disdained inequality, injustice, tyranny, blah, blah, blah, and I wanted to do something to fix the problems I saw. I went on to do many things about those problems over the next twenty years. It didn’t do a damn bit of good.So now I am a cynical man who desires change as greatly as I ever did but knows it is impossible, and that the fight is increasingly futile. I still disdain inequality, injustice, tyranny, along with capitalism, consumerism, imperialism, yada, yada yada, and I’ve given up trying to fix the problems. Now I just do the little things for myself and those I love, mostly to make myself feel good, and the rest of the world can be damned. Not doing anything should do as much good as all the things I did for twenty years (I say this, but then our plan is to do aid work somewhere in the next couple years; don't take my cynicism too seriously). The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is the same book it was twenty years ago, but back then I saw it as a call to arms. Now I see it as a flight of fancy, a pure act of wishful thinking, a revolution the way I wish it could be but know it never will. Still, there’s nothing wrong with an act of pure imagination now and then, even if the hopefulness is play and only serves to underline my deep hopelessness.

May

Note to self: When planning a political, economic and military coup, the first ally you want to make is the Artificial Intelligence that runs the entire planetary system. It really helps if you think of the AI as a totally sentient being and you are willing to help expand the AI's understanding, especially when it comes to humour!I appreciated the fact that this book does not labour over the military aspects of the coup. No long passages detailing fighting in the corridors or describing various space crafts hovering in the atmosphere. This is really a story about deception, idealism, and acceptance. Hard to not to feel somewhat sorry for the Lunars who have been abandoned and forced into a life of servitude for Earth. Yet the Lunars are the first ones to make something out of their harsh environment and fight for their independence. Fascinating personalities and even more fascinating strategic tactics. Sometimes I really wonder if battles are not won more on chance than anything. Yes, the AI controlled everything on the Moon but one there isn't a single AI running things on Earth is never addressed. Although the thought would be scary if both AIs tried to out-duel one another.

Wealhtheow

Moon is used as a penal colony. Generations of "Loonies" have grown up knowing nothing but minimal gravity, rigid social conventions, and the grasping Lunar Authority. The Loonies are tired of being Earth's grain producers without receiving appropriate recompence, but have no political power or weapons. Luckily for them, computerman Mannie teams up with the first AI, Mike, an old professor, and a professional revolutionary from the Hong Kong colony, the beautiful Wyoh. Together (although not really, because Mike and the professor plan everything and then explain it in tiny words to Wyoh, who stares at them with Bambi eyes and a heaving bosom) the group forments Loonie revolution. Everything goes pretty much exactly according to plan, because they have a supercomputer on their side. That, and, like all other Heinlein main characters, they are just so much more sensible and forward thinking than everyone else.My main problem with this book was not the rampant sexism, racist tropes, unbelievable Loonie society, clunky dialog (as usual, most characters exist soley to have things explained to them) or laughable political ideals. There was no emotion to this book. No Loonie feels oppressed or downtrodden. Nobody lives in fear or repression. The rebellion occurs for completely commercial reasons. When the war is won, everyone cheers, but there's no feeling of relief or achievement. Spoilers: as soon as the revolution is successful, both the professor and the AI die, leaving Mannie and the Loonies to rule themselves without a manipulative overlord. How coincidentally fortuitous!

Kelly McCubbin

This is quite possibly Heinlein's most politically charged book. People speak of Stranger in a Strange Land as being socially revolutionary, but this book is both that (polygamous marriage to form extended families, murder generally allowed, but insults to women punishable by death) and politically charged (Libertarian, Libertarian, Libertarian, though not exactly that kind of loopy American Libertarian Party kind, but a kind based more strictly on a dismantling of governmental power).It is a constant flow of political ideas, many of which you'll want to discard as unworkable or even offensive, but there is real power in Heinein's willingness to go out on a limb and build a radical scoiety and try, within the bounds of his Luna, to make it work.When the Professor says, "In writing your constitution let me invite attention to the wonderful virtue of the negative! Accentuate the negative! Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do. No conscript armies... no interference however slight with freedom of press, or speech, or travel, or assembly, or of religion, or of instruction, or communication, or occupation... no involuntary taxation," there is real power there.

Steven Cole

I started reading Heinlein novels back when I was a teenager, and managed to plow through the Heinlein library between the ages of 16 to 25. This set of thought has played a large role in shaping who I grew up to be. And re-reading those novels now makes me think how amazing it was that I *did* read those novels at the time, and happy that I did."The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is one of my most favorite of Heinlein's novels, but one which I haven't re-read (until just now) since I first read it 20+ years ago. It's great. It's how revolution should be done, if you've got top-notch communications and smart computers. But even more than that, it's a celebration of being smart and having common sense.In the end, Heinlein's characters don't grow a whole lot... If anything, they learn that they can accomplish great things with the heads they already have on their shoulders. There's not a lot of angst, self-doubt, or anything that causes emotional drama. The ideas are very much "see a problem, think about the problem, solve the problem" --- very direct, very straightforward. Heinlein's characters see what's in front of them and face it squarely. If only the powers-that-be in the real world did the same thing.And it's this characteristic which is so refreshing, and why Heinlein's books had such great influence on my own style of thinking.

Dan

My favorite Heinlein novel - a great revolution story, a great AI story, and a great Hard Sci-Fi, if the science in question is political. What I learned from this book:1. History bends and melts over time.2. The first AI we meet might not be intentional. 3. Throwing rocks can get serious over interplanetary distances. 4. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

The Fza

Pay your debts. Collect what is owed to you. Maintain your reputation and that of your family... In 2075, on the underground penal colonies scattered across Earth's Moon, that is what life amounts to.I've been a Heinlein fan since I read Have Space Suit—Will Travel as a young man. After which point I made an effort to read Heinlein as often as possible. What I found in his work was not only adventure and inventive situations but characters imbued with a sort of moral 'Rational Anarchy' that made them both strong and vulnerable.This, accompanied with his straightforward story telling and vibrant worlds... well it was all very exciting stuff and I soon learned that "The Heinlein Juveniles" (as 200 page pocketbooks I was breezing through were called) weren't his only works.I read collections of short-stories that would include the poetry that US astronauts would quote on the moon and time travel stories that made fun of established theories. Not to mention his more subversive later works. All-in-all, a body of damn fine work. Yet, it wasn't until I read this book, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, that I truly would understand what Carl Sagan meant when he said, about books, that they are "proof that humans can work magic." Because this book about two men, a woman and a computer WAS magic. This might be why it was nominated for a Nebula and twice for a Hugo (which it eventually won in 1967 for best for Best Novel). And why, in the reading it, you can tell it was a labor of love.Love for science, for social commentary, for political ideology and for the amazing thing life is. Despite the many tropes within, it didn't seem forced or unrealistic (to some aspects even with what we know today about space science it seems to make sense). Nor did it suffer from Heinlein's one--I won’t call it a flaw, but lets just say he had some very different ideas about women then the 21st century man (or woman) might. I think the best article about this seeming dichotomy of strong smart, yet submissive women of many Heinlein books is discussed much better than I can in Mary Grace Lord's October 2, 2005 article for the New York Times: Heinlein's Female TroublesIf you think this 'flaw' of Heinlein's to be insurmountable when reading some of his work, remember that at a time when almost no SF had females in them Heinlein built books around them. In some cases making them more important in society than their male counter-parts. As he has done here on Luna.In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the populace inhabiting these lunar dwellings, or "Loonies", are much like original settlers of Australia or the Americas. They're surely a motley lot, mostly folks that 'civilized' countries didn't want around. The Lunar Authority have been shipping criminals, political exiles, dissidents and any number of conscripted and non-conscripted undesirables up to the Moon for over fifty years now. As a result the population is about three million, with men outnumbering women about 2:1. This gap has decreased since initial colonization.Despite having a warden, there is little Lunar Authority intervention in the loose Lunar society. It is a place akin to that of the Old West, with the exception of the prairie being the deadly vacuum of Luna's surface. Of course here, with about 2 men to each woman, the result is a society where women have a great deal of power. Land is in their name and a slight against a woman could lead a perpetrator straight to the aforementioned vacuum. There are no laws on Luna in 2075, either you are polite or you are dead!Yes, the Loonies have a hard life indeed. Yet with life in Lunar City or Complex Under or even Hong Kong Luna came several perks, a long life among them. After all, it's gravity that makes brittle bones and wrinkles an issue. Here, even 100 year old men with no legs is as mobile as a 20 year old in perfect health could be. So are they still imprisoned?If you asked Manuel Garcia O'Kelly at the opening of Moon, he might have said "they are as free as one could be" or "who cares". You see Mannie was a computer tech, he lived a happy life with his family in their nice warren and as a contractor he didn't have to answer to the Lunar Authority. Though he would do jobs for them. The Lunar Authority had a HOLMES IV (High-Optional. Logical. Multi-Evaluating. Supervisor. Mark IV) computer, the most impressive computer on the Moon surface controlling most of the colony's technical needs. Mannie also knew this particular computer to be extra-special. You see it had a sense of humor and enjoyed talking to Mannie about any number of things. While Mannie wasn't sure if this computer was alive he was sure this was something to keep secret. He and Mycroft, as Mannie dubbed this amazing HOLMES IV computer, started a friendship.If this was the only aspect of the story it might still have been a good tale. In 1967 computers were still novel. However Heinlein wrote a much more complex tale. Mycroft wanted his friend to do something for him. He wanted to know more about people and asked Mannie to record an anti-Authority meeting he had heard about with his limited surveillance of the human populace's activity.Mannie wasn't one for politics. But he agreed to go in exchange for Mycroft's promise not to play any more practical jokes on Authority check-clerks, thereby keeping Mycroft's unique personality quiet. Little did Mannie know this one decision would lead him, his old teacher Professor de la Paz, and new arrival to Luna City, Wyoming Knott, into a world of Lunar revolution. This book is full of everything the SF reader and the average politico will love. It might be one of the best books (SF or not) you will ever read. It is a gem that tends to be overshadowed by more popular Heinlein stories like Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land. Yet it's not bogged down by the overt social commentary of those other works. The Moon asked questions, it doesn't try to answer them, and in the end you are left to lament over it as you might an old love. In my opinion this is Heinlein's masterpiece and the best example as to why he was exalted as the first Grand Master of Science Fiction. Do yourself a favor and discover why the Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The SF nerd in you will thank you for it. As will the romantic adventurer.

Mark

Ah, Heinlein: SF's great paradox artist. I am fairly certain that I have personally held every possible wrong viewpoint on the man. Namely, that he was:1) A radically forward-thinking visionary of libertarianism2) A raging fascist, homophobe, and misogynist3) Any point on the sociopolitical spectrum in between.It's not my fault. Over the course of his career, Heinlein seemed to espouse every possible viewpoint on religion, government, and gender relations (obviously, he liked to stick to small themes), showing little tolerance for moderate opinions. Without a blink of irony, he also placed a premium on pragmatism. And the balance of pragmatism and idealism -- or, rather, the illusion that the two can coexist effortlessly -- is what The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is all about. It is the story of a lunar colony's revolt, in the same way that The Fountainhead is a book about architects (an insulting comparison; Heinlein's prose is significantly more readable than Ayn Rand's). You see, it's really about libertarianism -- or, as one of the book's heroes characterizes it, "rational anarchism."So, a small group of revolutionaries attempts to liberate the moon from her Earthbound oppressors, and institute a perfect anarcho-syndicalist commune in their stead. They set about doing this, of course, with the help of a sentient supercomputer. They organize the people of Luna, and succeed in overthrowing the existing government, but in so doing upset the nations of Earth. After all, the moon has been shipping grain down to help feed Earth's starving masses, so they're a little cranky when the "Lunies" threaten to cut off the supply (you'd be cranky living on 1,800 calories a day too). Coincidentally, the ruling philosophy on Luna is the maxim "TANSTAAFL" -- There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. I mentioned that Heinlein was subtle, right?So they go to war, and then, in the novel's single biggest twist, the computer doesn't turn evil. I could hardly believe it.Although the book is riddled with bizarre moments that nag one's attempts to suspend disbelief (the most persistent being Mike the Computer's regular updates as to the revolutionaries' "probability of success," which starts out at 1/7, and then -- as everything proceeds to go perfectly to plan -- drops to as low as 1/100, in unapologetic defiance of all mathematical logic), the plot's weaknesses don't matter. Heinlein is a gifted novelist, and a natural storyteller. Even when the characters decide to take 10 pages off and simply talk politics for a while, it's enthralling. And talk politics they do. No one flinches at the notion of attempting to institute a perfect democracy run entirely by a handful of exceptional individuals, who themselves defer to the managerial expertise of a supercomputer (no tyrannic potential there, right?). Nor do they worry themselves with the philosophical contradiction of attempting to forge a pacifistic state by means of terrorism and interplanetary warfare (those who raise the issue, and thus violate Heinlein's worship at the Altar of Pragmatism, are conveniently Roslined out of the nearest airlock; it's okay, they're wormy enough that you won't miss 'em). But all of this simply serves to illustrate Heinlein's mastery of the ideological paradox. He's more than smart enough to recognize the inconsistencies of his own personal politics, and to play with them to terrific effect. Notably, Heinlein did not self-dentify with the majority of his protagonists. Instead, his Mary Sues are characters like Stranger in a Strange Land's Jubal Harshaw and, in the case of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Professor Bernardo de la Harshaw--er, Paz. They are cynical old men who are, in novel after novel, infallible, brilliant, well-connected, and almost disturbingly capable.Exit thought: why is it that the computer that makes the revolution possible just happens to share its name with the superhuman hero of Stranger In a Strange Land, both of whom disappear suddenly and inexplicably upon concluding their tasks?

Rob

** spoiler alert ** Excellent. Almost perfect. To all of those that say that this is Heinlein's best work: I agree, and would go so far as to say "by far".A few thoughts:(1) Chapter twenty-six is probably one of the best single chapters in science fiction literature. Maybe all literature.(2) Heinlein prevents this from being a five-star work with (surprise!) how he portrays women. Hamstrung, they are, when they ought to be in power. He drops hints that the Lunar society has the most empowered women in history, and yet the families are not matriarchal; and though the Revolution seems to start with Wyoh, she quickly fades into the background (politically); and tben every other little detail (one of the kickers for me being during the climactic War Cabinet meeting when our narrator refers to one of the women as "a good little fem that knows when to stay quiet" [or something like that:]). Sigh.(3) Mike. Poor Mike. So tragic.(4) "Throw rocks at them." So great.------See also:• http://litreactor.com/columns/10-scie...

sologdin

Nutshell: lunar colony secedes from Earth, led by John Galt and AI, as told by know-nothing with charming pseudo-slavic accent.Likely one of the source texts for items such as Red Mars and Iron Council, each of which carries echoes of this one.Some odd lapses. One of the principals describes herself as a "Fifth Internationalist" but yet "no Marxist" (64). That's essentially a contradiction in terms. Heinlein doesn't have her expound on her political ideology, as she is apparently present, like Marlowe's Zenocrate, to "rest thee like a lovely queen," to screw the narrator (an apolitical jackass, who proves old slavic saying that it's better to be lucky than smart), and to agree with the libertarian professor, who johngalts his hour upon the stage. The AI--who has an "orgasm" when inflicting mass-driven projectiles on Earth from orbit (269)--gets more political & legal discussion than The Girl, who is revealed to be a fetus machine. Even an aristocratic monarchist has more time to discuss his political ideas (his contempt for egalitarian politics is shared by the libertarian, of course). Not surprising that Heinlein hushes up the female socialist, given his less-than-enlightened gender politics and his thorough lack of comprehension of leftwing ideas.We are given uncritical praise of Malthusian economics (206), unflattering portraits of arts-oriented intellectuals (272-73), and glib assurances that "life has never been sacred in Africa" (280). In a different sort of lapse, the text reveals its age when the narrator "didn't get that far away, as needed to stay on phone and longest cord around was less" (255).All that aside, it is a gripping novel, very worthy of its Hugo. Some might be annoyed by the legal and political discussion, but it's all very well done. I must concede that Heinelin is a very proficient writer, as he presents technical details in an engaging way, with lively scientific minutiae and genuinely interesting attention to engineering detail. It helps that these things are items of contention, at issue in the plot, rather than description for description's sake.Very interesting scene early on regarding the lack of a judiciary on the Moon--anyone can be a judge and adjudicate actions in tort, and then impose criminal penalties, including execution. I suspect this is some kind of libertarian suggestion to abolish law, lawyers, and the judiciary. It's hopelessly naive at best, but more likely it's simply a nostalgia for manorial justice: property owners adjudicate tort on their own terms. In a book filled with reprehensible ideas, this is one of the worst.Recommended for those who look nulliparous and younger than they are, persons with occupational diseases of the underground, and readers with a dubious claim to being the Macgregor.

Chris

What would you do if you had access to the greatest supercomputer ever built? A computer so complex and intricate that it finally gains full consciousness - and only you knew about it? Would you use it for your own nefarious purposes and hack your way to riches? Would you try to teach it how to be human? Would you tell it jokes? Or would you use it to start a revolution that frees your people in the Lunar Colonies from the yoke of Terran oppression?Manuel Garcia O'Kelly Davis never really meant for that last one to happen. One of Luna's best computer technicians, Mannie's philosophy was "Keep mouth shut" when it came to matters political, and never considered the political fate of the Moon to be something he needed to worry about. When he attends a meeting of Lunar dissidents, people protesting against the rule of the Earth-based Lunar Authority, he goes more out of curiosity than cause. An attack by Authority troops drives him together with lifelong revolutionary Wyoming Knott and anarchist professor Bernardo de la Paz, and together they hatch a plan to take down the Lunar Authority and make Luna into a sovereign nation above Earth.To do so, they'll need the help of Mike, the world's first - and only - sentient computer. He knows the odds, he can run the scenarios - with Mike on their side, the people of Luna can gain their independence and create a new nation in the grand tradition of old.A friend of mine said that this was the best political science textbook that she'd ever read, and in many respects she's right. This book packs a lot of social philosophy into three hundred pages, and Heinlein requires you to be pretty quick on the uptake. From Manny's clipped way of narrating the story to all the new lingo and concepts that are necessary for Lunar life, the reader needs to pay close attention in order to get the full impact of what's going on in the book.In a way, this book is Heinlein asking the question, "How do new nations begin?" Historically, there are two ways: top-down and bottom-up. In the first case, a person or people of strength brings a group of citizens to become a political entity. In the second, the people themselves rise up to overthrow their former masters. Most revolutions are a mix of the two, really, and Luna's is no exception. The very charismatic Adam Selene (Mike in disguise) and the brilliant Professor manage to bring the people of Luna together in order to rid themselves of the Lunar Authority.What makes it very interesting is that the book is pretty much a how-to book on insurgency and revolution. They work out an improvement on the traditional cell system of a conspiracy, and how to make it as stable and secret as possible, while still maintaining reliable communications. They figure out how to involve people in the revolution indirectly, harnessing the energies of everyone from children to old people. Working against a better-armed and more powerful enemy, Luna's revolution is a textbook model of how to overthrow your oppressors and gain your freedom.Of course, once you have your freedom, then what do you do with it? How do you run your new country, and how do you make sure that your freedom can be maintained? How do you build a government and write a constitution and establish trade and do all the other little things that have to happen if you want a country all your own?What's more, Heinlein puts forth a new society that is radically different from the ones we know now, and by necessity. With drastically different demographics and gravity, life on Luna cannot follow the same rules as life on Earth. This new life includes a near reverence for women, marriages that span not only multiple partners but multiple generations, and a spirit of individualism that would make the most grizzled pioneer proud. Life on the moon, as the title implies, is not easy. Many of those who come to Luna do not survive. Those who do, however, become the backbone of a new nation that will one day be the crossroads of the solar system.It's a dense read, but fun, once you get used to the narrator's mode of speech. Manny often leaves off pronouns and articles, making him sound very choppy and direct. And a lot of it is done in speeches and Socratic dialogs between the Prof and whomever is unlucky enough to get in his way. I'd say that the greater part of this book is discussion of how to have a revolution from the point of view of the moon, and a look at how Heinlein thinks a society should be ordered.Other than being very narrative-heavy, which modern readers might find somewhat tiring, there is one point about the book that didn't sit right with me. It didn't ruin the book, necessarily, but it put a big asterisk next to everything that Heinlein was trying to say. That asterisk is Mike.Mike is a truly marvelous AI. He is not only self-aware and blessed with a rather rudimentary sense of humor, but he is tied into all of Luna's main systems. His processing speed and memory are exceptional, and while he doesn't really care one way or the other about rebelling against his owners, he does think that organizing a rebellion might be an entertaining diversion. He's a good character, really, but he is entirely too powerful.All of the problems that traditionally plague conspiracies, undergrounds and rebellions are solved by Mike. He knows the probabilities of success and can run thousands of scenarios in a moment. He is able to set up a moon-wide communications system that is completely secure. He can tap into the Lunar Authority's database while at the same time keeping the Rebellion's data secret. What's more, he can be trusted to know everything about everyone in the group - he cannot be bribed or drugged or forced to name names under interrogation. He can organize the bombardment of Earth with pinpoint accuracy, bring down attacking ships and organize attacks all over the moon.With Mike at their side, the rebels couldn't help but win, and I found that a kind of hollow victory, in a narrative sense. I kept waiting for Mike to be compromised - his power disconnected or his actual intelligence uncovered - or for him to change his mind about helping the rebels. One way or another, I wanted the rebels to win Luna without the help of their omniscient computer conspirator. As it is, Mike pretty much delivers the Moon to its people, and then vanishes without a trace. That's not to say that the human element isn't necessary - even Mike couldn't have won independence without them - I would rather have seen a wholly human revolution.Other than that, though, it was a very good read, and it's a book that ties into a lot of Heinlein's other works. Many concepts that are key to Heinlein's vision of the world are in this book - the freedom of the individual to direct his or her own life, the benefits of polygamy over monogamy, and of course the notion of TANSTAAFL - "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" - which is arguably one of the governing principles of the universe. In this book, Heinlein asks the reader to do more than just enjoy a good story - he demands that the reader think about the message as well. And that's what makes Heinlein one of the greats.If you're looking for some essential science fiction and you like your politics rough-and-tumble, check this book out.

Joe

I couldn't help but compare Heinlein's fictional description of life in a Lunar Penal Colony to the way life was for these United States of America struggling for independence from England.It is written from the perspective of a citizen of Luna (the penal colony on the Moon) who was born there, so it takes a chapter or two to get used to the dialect he uses. It's really just abbreviated English with some Russian words and words from a few other languages.I was immediately drawn in by Heinlein's sense of humor depicted through Mike, the conscious computer.This is an excellent book that touches nicely on all of the debatable aspects of what life would be like in a libertarian society... just like in the U.S. before the Civil War! (only more technologically advanced and no slaves) Through the characters and description of life in Luna, Heinlein explains how freedom and free markets benefit EVERYONE.HIGHLY recommend this book.

She-Who-Reads

This is an excellent novel, action-packed, exciting, and deftly-plotted, with fascinating, complex characters and some interesting science-fictional ideas. I also enjoyed reading about Luna's culture; I thought the marriage customs were particularly interesting.One thing I noticed right off was the way the Loonies use language differently than people from earth do. In fact, it threw me at first -- I couldn't figure out what was going on or why the language was so rough and unpolished and choppy. Eventually, though, I found the rhythm of it and settled in just fine -- I didn't even notice it after a while. It makes sense; Luna started off as a penal colony and has since developed completely separate from Earth and relatively unmolested. Of course they would have their own dialect and speech patterns! To my mind, their language seems to be as efficient as possible. They trimmed away any unnecessary deadwood -- they don't use articles, for example, and very few personal pronouns, and they seem to prefer to use fragments to complete sentences. Only the essentials remain, much the same as the original colonists/prisoners had to start their lives over with only the bare essentials and sometimes not even that.This book was written about forty years ago, and it has stood the test of time quite well, but there are some aspects of it that do seem rather dated. For example, the idea behind the character of Mike -- the computer that is connected to everything and has "woken up" or become alive -- is one that is very familiar to modern readers, one that we accept easily. Apparently, we accept it much more easily than Heinlen expected his readers in 1965 to accept it, because he spends more time explaining it than he really needs to. When Mannie, the narrator, tells Wyoh about Mike and introduces them via a telephone conversation, she is shocked that Mike already knows what she looks like. He looked up her medical records and found a picture of her immediately after being introduced to her. To modern readers familiar with the internet, this is an obvious step and hardly shocking; we expect it, and Wyoh's shock and apparent need to have every detail and implication of Mike's "life" spelled out for her makes her seem a little bit stupid to us. If we don't remember that Heinlen is using Wyoh to explain things to his 1965 audience that his 2005 audience intuitively understands, then we'll get a little frustrated with Wyoh's denseness.All in all, though, this is a novel about politics -- a very complex, deep, intellectual and sophisticated look at politics, government, revolution and war. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has a very definite world-view and political philosophy, some of which I agreed with, and some of which I really, really didn't. My agreement (or lack thereof) with the politics espoused in this book didn't seem to have much bearing on my enjoyment of it. This is a book that requires the reader to think. And that, I think, is why I loved it so much.

mark monday

do you play games where you know the outcome of the game itself is without question... where any fun to be had is not so much in the winning - that's predetermined - but in figuring out how exactly you will win, what moves you will make, how you will overcome all those minor hurdles along the way? that's sometimes how i feel when playing chess with some folks. for me, it's not the most exciting thing in the world; it's a little eye-rolling. i think others may have more excitement when playing a game they know they'll win. my little nephews seem to have a really enjoyable time kicking my ass at their various new-fangled video games. personally i don't get it, but they seem to love illustrating how easy and exciting it is, the thrill of watching all their strategies and skills coming to predictable fruition. even when there is no real competition. their eventual win is obvious. and that's the impression that i'm left with after reading the enjoyable Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.the novel is about a revolution on Luna by its oppressed permanent labor force. far in the future, the moon is the newest Prison Island... once you are transported there, you can't come back. and there you work, mainly to export grain, and live a life of economic exploitation by The Lunar Authority. you will alway live in this proletariat society. overall, it is actually not a horrible existence. the "Loonies" are an enjoyable lot, unpretentious and down to earth, concerned mainly with beer, gambling, and the ladies. Heinlein creates an odd and i suppose semi-utopic world, with a pleasing lack of laws (a kind of libertarian anarchy of sorts) and a highly liberated view on women (basically, they are the social/family/romantic Boss of It All... not truly a matriarchal society per se, but rather one built around the need to make sure women are completely empowered. apparently due to the 2-to-1 status of men to women on the moon, and the need for women to be 'available' to much more than monogamy... fascinating!)still, despite the basic lack of horror in this odd world (and personally, i'd be horrified if i had to live in a world completely without nature for the rest of my life. my God! no fresh air... ever!)... it's no fun to be exploited by bureaucratic overseers. and so must come REVOLUTION! we have our friendly & no-nonsense Everyman, we have our bewitching & passionate Lady in Hiding, we have our amusing & highly intellectual Idealistic Professor. and of course we have our sentient computer Mike, who likes to play games. and revolution is just another kind of game, right?the writing is breezy, casual, and in a sort of pidgen english (a kind of cross between baby talk and our very own text messaging style) that should be annoying but actually isn't. much like with HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, we have a fascinating computer who provides all of the genuinely emotional and resonant moments in the narrative. and - perhaps because of the time period in which the novel was written, but certainly topical today - we have a step-by-step account of How To Make A Revolution Work. Heinlein's passions come across mainly in the world-building of this almost-utopia and in the very detailed expression of how exactly to overthrow the chains of oppression through revolution (and i suppose a bit of terrorism, at times).so back to my original point. i liked this novel, but i would never consider reading it a second time. it was fun. but the outcome was never in question. Heinlein loads the dice by making sure that everything happens as projected, each step of the way. no tension... and a tension-free revolution is a curiously child-like enterprise. mind you, not childish. there is a sweet naïveté to it all. Heinlein jerry-built this revolution to be won and so i never felt any kind of nervousness, i never worried. the only stakes that were meaningful to me were the (rather slight) emotional stakes around Mike the computer: his past loneliness, his concern about whether he is actually sentient, and his need to have friends, to talk to people who are 'not-stupid'. aww... that's adorable! Mike, i'm not super-smart or anything, but i'll be your friend! cute little revolutionary computer minds are very appealing to me.

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